Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What does a Spanish Civil War revolutionary, The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, one of the most influential architects of the 20th century and Walsh High School in Ottumwa, Iowa have in common?

Felix Candela

Probably unbeknownst to most people from Ottumwa when the new Walsh High School opened in 1962 students stepped into an unusual building using a design by one of the most famous architects of the 20th century, Felix Candela.

Born in MadridSpain in 1910, Candela was a national sports champion in Spain and a noted award-winning architect who was pursuing graduate studies in Germany when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936.

He left school to return to Spain and fight for the Republic against Franco and when Franco won he slipped into a refugee camp in France to avoid becoming a prisoner of the Franco regime.  In 1939 he was selected for relocation to Mexico and moved to his new home.

In Mexico Candela pioneered the use of thin shelled concrete in building construction and among the nearly 1,000 buildings he designed were the revolutionary 1968 Olympic Stadium in Mexico City and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

The Guadalupe Basilica is the most popular Catholic pilgrimage site in the world drawing over 20 million visitors annually to see the tilma of Juan Diego with the image of Our Lady that was made December 12, 1531.

As a point of reference, at that time America had not been settled and Henry 8th was still King of England.

Candela developed a thin shelled concrete material for use in buildings called the "hyperbolic paraboloid" and his structures are located in Mexico, the United StatesSpainVenezuelaColumbiaPeruGuatemalaPuerto RicoEcuadorGreat Britain and Norway.

My father, Wayne E. Putnam arranged with Felix to use his designs for the new Walsh High School as well as our home overlooking the Ottumwa Country Club.  And that is how all those pieces in the title tie together. Felix Candela, a very nice man and world renowned architect whose world famous "hyperbolic paraboloid" design was incorporated into Walsh High School.

Local architects for both of the projects were Ken Steffen and Steve Stoltz.

Felix moved with his family to the United States in 1971 and taught at Harvard University and the University of Illinois.  He died at the age of 87 while living in North Carolina.

Memoirs of a Walsh High Basketball Junkie - A Putnam Brother & Hayseed from Iowa

Go Gaels

You know there is a time and a place for everything and now that it has been a lot of years since the emergence of the Walsh High basketball dynasty of the 1960's I guess I can comment on what I know of the first half of the decade that laid the foundation for the dynasty.

First to address some background.  When Mike, Bob and I lived in Iowa City we had a basketball court in the attic of our garage.  Our dad played for Iowa City High School and graduated from the University of Iowa so we were hard core Iowa fans from birth.

In fact even after we moved to Ottumwa we returned to Iowa City every weekend for football games and cheered the Hawkeyes on to two Rose Bowl championships in the late 1950's.  When possible we also came back for basketball games, especially when Iowa was playing Ohio State and other legendary teams of the time.

When we lived in Iowa City we were supposed to go to St. Mary's High School and even our high school to be was a basketball powerhouse, thus increasing our desire to excel in order to make the team when we got to high school.

In fact after we moved to Ottumwa the Iowa City St. Mary's team won the Iowa State Class B high school championship in 1956 and 1957 and finished second in 1958, such was the quality of the players and organizations in our hometown.

Once in Ottumwa a different set of issues was involved as the Walsh Gaels had no legacy, in fact they even had no home as they played in the old Ottumwa High School practice court with the track overhead.

We joined the YMCA leagues in 7th and 8th grades where we played with and against the future stars of Ottumwa High School and together we made the All Star teams.  In other words, long before the so called bitter rivalry between Walsh and OHS which supposedly culminated in the 1963 District championship we were competitors and we were friends.

I think people perceived something that was never there.  We were fierce competitors in Little League, Babe Ruth and basketball but were always able to leave the game behind after it was over.  That was the nature of competition and sportsmanship.  If we had to lose in the tournament it might just as well be to OHS.

Of course we didn't really lose to OHS in that 1963-64 war did we?

Since Walsh never had enough students to mount a football team, my first love as a sport, we were also big supporters of the OHS Bulldogs and went to every home football game on Friday nights.

So along comes high school and Mike spent his freshman year at the old Walsh in South Ottumwa.  By the next year when I was a freshman we moved to the Airbase 12 miles away from Ottumwa into an abandoned building while work began on a new high school.

For basketball practice the team would have to get back to town and go to the civic auditorium basement, crawling through the city road vehicles and snow plows to a court, concrete of course, dimly lit, with no heat, and a steel girder directly over the baskets.

Needless to say there was no hot water for showers and in addition to having your shots blocked by freezing defenders you might have your vision blocked by the smoke pouring out of your mouth from the extreme cold.  Did I mention that the baskets were mounted on the coliseum walls so if you were charging to the basket for a lay in a second after the ball left your hand you crashed into the concrete wall?

In truth the conditions and the environment were far more suited for a Dicken's novel than for the foundation of a basketball dynasty.

Official games were played in the OHS practice gym with the running track above and you often had to strain to hear the ref when track runners were pounding overhead.  On one side bleachers pulled out from the wall and seated about 100 people (slight under-exaggeration).  The overflow had to stand on the track high above the game.

My freshman and sophomore years were spent commuting between the airbase, auditorium basement and practice court with the track overhead but something went right because we were 21-2 the first year I got to play varsity, in '61-62.

That was when I made a decision that Walsh had the potential to become good, really good, but no one would ever know around the state.  It became my mission to be the secret source of all Walsh basketball statistics for every major news outlet in the state.

Every week under a pen name from my sophomore year on I submitted weekly background for stories to the top newspapers, radio and TV stations from Des Moines to DubuqueDavenport to Iowa City about the achievements of the Walsh Gaels.  Sports writers and broadcasters were inundated with Walsh info and stats and a running update of the career statistics of my brother Mike.  These same people were the ones who voted for the top ten basketball teams in the state in each class.

Only two people really knew what I was doing those three years because I had to share the strategy in order to be successful.  One was my close friend and sports editor for the Ottumwa Courier Alan Hoskins because I knew the sports people from around the state would want follow up info from a local reporter.

The second was my principal once we moved into the new Walsh High School, Father Ryan, aka Mister Golden Gloves, famous writer, etc., etc.  Now Father understood the value of publicity and I needed to stay on his good side because I was constantly in trouble with teachers, coaches and priests.

Like the time we borrowed a truck with a crane to move a 3000 pound bell out of the backyard of some unsuspecting people and mounted it as a victory bell at the airbase to generate school spirit.  I just knew we were going to have a great team and wanted to do something for the school.  Of course we had no driver's licenses nor permission to take the bell and we were all sworn to secrecy so no one knew from whence it came.

That is until photographer Michael Lemberger showed up one fateful day and took a school picture for the newspaper with the entire student body surrounding the bell out at the airbase.  The rightful owners had reported it missing and we did intend to return it after the last game of our first winning season but one day they found their missing bell on the front page of the Courier and eventually the cops forced a confession from us.  Still, we did get to keep it until after the last game since we would not be returning to the airbase the next year.

As for my secret journalism efforts, by the time we moved into the new school in 1963 Walsh was ranked number 1 in the state in class B where we stayed for two years.  My brother was all state his junior year and All American his senior year and Walsh, well we went 21-2, 22-2, 21-2 and 20-5 the four years I was there.

Mike broke the career scoring record in Iowa basketball and from 1960-64 Walsh had one of the best four year records in state history at 84-11, all while having to play schools up to 12 times as large during the tournaments.  At least I had something to write about those years.

The power of the press paid off as it helped us get the top ranking and kept me from getting expelled.  Of course Alan Hoskins and Father Ryan protected my secret.  It also might explain yet another mystery at Walsh.

Through no fault of my own (of course) I had been kicked out of journalism class from November until I graduated my senior year yet I somehow remained on the staff of the Unitas newspaper and was co-editor of the yearbook with Maureen Dessert.  Then I got the outstanding journalism award at commencement.  Perhaps the years of ghost writing were secretly recognized.

But there is more to the Walsh story and this part few know about.  I mentioned this to my friend Doug Potter who does an excellent job keeping the natives informed and now I will share it with you.

There is a class issue regarding Walsh basketball that often goes unnoticed like most class issues.  We all recognize that a team is made up of five or more key players but it was rather unusual that three of us were brothers and were starters for two years.

In the past 55 years Iowa boys high school basketball had 49 split state champions (two or more classes) and 6 single state champions.  The single champions were from 1960 - 1966.  My brothers and I played from 1959 - 1965.  In other words we played in 5 of the 6 single state champion years, and every year more than one of us played together there was only a single state champion.

Walsh was ranked #1 in class B both years the three of us started.  The highest state tourney finish by Walsh during the single champion years was 1964 when we reached the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual state runner up Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

Ottumwa High and Cedar Rapids Jefferson who knocked Walsh out of the state tourney in 1963 and 1964 both were in the top 15 largest high schools in the state for enrollment with over 1,500 students.  Walsh ranked about 360th in enrollment in Iowa with about 125 students.  Both times Walsh lost to schools 12 times larger.

By the way, that Sweet 16 finish in the 1964 season when I was a senior was the first time I got to play back in my home town, Iowa City, and finally I got to play in the University of Iowa field house before 14,000 fans, a far cry from the few hundred just three years earlier.

A few other notes from my ghost writing days.

In my three varsity years we never lost a home game.

Our worst record those years was 20-5.

Every year after winning sectionals we played Class A or AA teams from much larger schools.

During the time we played there were 3 All Americans from Iowa, Mike Putnam, Jerry Waugh from Mt. Ayr and Jim Cummins from Cedar Rapids Regis.

Regis won the single state championship in 1962 and finished 2nd in 1963 and Cummins went on to become a famous NBC News reporter.

Walsh in 1962-63 played against both other Iowa High School All Americans during the season, Cummins once and Waugh twice.

There were a whole lot of scoring and other records and Mike was inducted into the Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame for holding the career scoring record for some time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Publisher's Note - Count Down to the End of the World - 16 days


As we close in on the last days of mankind according to the gaggle of channels and their party line IPhones with the Gods,  I thought I might suggest some things to do in preparation.

1.  Do not take your money out of the bank as the interstellar chatter might be wrong.  Besides, what would you do with it anyway.

2.  You might want to go visit someone you actually like just in case you are stuck with the same person in your next life you were with when it ended.

3.  If you have a bucket list you only have two weeks to complete it.  Consider revising the list.

4.  Should you have sensitive documents, like love letters to someone other than your wife or husband, you might want to burn them in case you get zapped out of here and your spouse is left behind and might find them.  You never know, he or she might hire a shaman to curse you in your next lifetime.

5.  In the unlikely event you have the opportunity to recreate yourself in your next lifetime you best decide who you want to be and secure a picture to take with you to give to the angel in charge of your new you.

6.  Figure out a way to practice being weightless since they claim you will have a light body, as in enlightened I presume rather than simply skinny.  You might try driving over hills fast to get that weightless feeling.


Embattled Hillary Clinton's Secret Weapon to win Election - Picks hubby Bill Clinton to be Vice President


With the polls sagging and the enthusiasm waning for the Hillary for president campaign, some think it will take a miracle to pull a rabbit out of the hat and win.

With all the top Republican candidates within single digits of overtaking her in the polls, and no end in sight to the drip-drip-drip of the email scandal, something dramatic, historic, and polarizing, like naming her husband her running mate, might be the only hope.

What are her options?  Assuming Biden does not jump into the race, and the Bill Clinton Foundation might give him a massive salary to retire and stay out of the race, the second ranking person in the Democratic primary is Bernie Sanders.

If elected, Bernie, at age 74, would be the oldest person to become president in USA history.  Ronald Reagan currently holds the record at age 69.  If Hillary picked him to be vice president, he would still be the oldest vice president in US history.  Alben W. Barkley at 71 years of age is the current leader.

Beyond the age issue, Bernie would be the first self-declared democratic-socialist to ever hold one of the top two offices in our government not to mention the fact he is not even a Democrat but a registered Independent.  In other words, forget Bernie.

What other choice is out there, and who better than Bill Clinton, who just might like the idea since he would have access to the power of the Administration again.  Hillary says she cannot control him and history backs her.

However, people have always underestimated the Clinton's and their proven ability to get people to forget what they have done at just the right moment to win.

There is no way Hillary will get past the email scandal just like there was no way Bill would get past smoking pot, but not inhaling, or declaring oral sex with intern Monica Lowinsky was not a sexual relationship.

When he was a candidate for president, his campaign was nearly derailed by the emergence of his longtime mistress, Gennifer Flowers, in 1992. Then came Paula Jones (claiming sexual harassment), Kathleen Willey (same), Juanita Broaddrick (rape) and, most famously, Lewinsky, the White House intern whose liaisons with Clinton led to his impeachment.

According to Lewinsky’s testimony in the Starr Report, the impeachment investigation, Clinton told her that he’d had “hundreds of affairs” early on in his marriage, but now he was trying to be faithful. That, she said, was the reason he gave for ending their relationship.

The former president has also been rumored to have had affairs with Barbra Streisand, Eleanor Mondale, Sharon Stone and most recently with a woman code-named “Energizer” by his Secret Service detail.

In spite of his rather colorful history, recent polls show Bill with a 64% favorable rating at a time when his wife has dropped from 59% when she was Secretary of State to 38-42% in recent polls.

Can Bill the magician save his wife's campaign and become the first President and Vice President family in history?  Why not?